Consumption of illegal alcohol picks up in Lithuania: survey

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Consumption of illegally sold alcoholic beverages increased in Lithuania in 2017, ending up a three years decline trend, Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LLRI) announced in a statement on Thursday.

According to a survey, commissioned by research company RAIT and published by LLRI, the share of shadow activity in Lithuania’s strong beverage market rose to 24 percent this year, from 22 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, the share of shadow activity in the whole economy fell to 24 percent, from 26 percent two years ago, the institute noted.

“We are noting different trends in the area of excise goods compared to other areas of economy. The overall economy is growing and people’s income is increasing, therefore, the overall level of shadow economy in Lithuania has been decreasing,” Vytautas Zukauskas, vice president of LLRI, was quoted as saying in the statement.

However, in his words, the scale of shadow in alcohol market increased.

As the RAIT survey showed, 12 percent of residents admitted that they purchased illegal alcohol, such as home made spirits or smuggled beverages, during the recent year, compared to 8 percent in 2015.

Share of residents against buying and using illegal alcoholic beverages decreased to 45 percent, compared to 55 percent two years ago, the survey showed.

The institute did not submit the corresponding data for 2016 in the statement.

“It is people’s reaction to significantly increased excise taxes and a sharp hike of alcohol prices. When legal alcohol becomes more expensive, a space for shadow activities occurs,” Zukauskas said.

In recent years, Lithuania’s authorities have been considering and adopting measures aimed at restricting access of alcohol, due to concerns over alcohol abuse in the Baltic country.

Raising the minimum drinking age to 20, restricting alcohol sale hours and alcohol advertising ban are among the amendments to the Alcohol Control Law adopted earlier this year. The measures will come into effect as of January 1, 2018.

According to the World Health Organisation, Lithuania is among the countries with the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in Europe.

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